cover image Quoth the Maven: More on Language from William Safire

Quoth the Maven: More on Language from William Safire

William Safire. Random House (NY), $25 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-679-42324-9

With his usual playful exactitude, the popular New York Times columnist considers such matters as the odious 'n' phenomenon (as in shake 'n' bake); the overuse of certain words and phrases (feckless, on the cusp); the original meaning of such odd but au courant expressions as ``pushing the envelope.'' Along the way, he argues that the New Yorker has become ``an open house for grammatical laxity and with-it usage'' and defines a Manichean world view. In this collection of his ``On Language'' columns, Safire prints responses from readers, some belonging to the Gotcha! Gang (shock troops of the Nitpickers' League), others from the Lexicographic Irregulars (Alistair Cooke, Jacques Barzun and Daniel Moynihan among them) and ordinary folks who want to elaborate, clarify or pick a bone. (Safire's columns on the expressions ``people of color'' and ``mother's work'' elicited a deluge of peppery mail.) For those who have wondered what the longest palindrome in recorded history is, Safire prints all 22 words of it here. (Aug.)